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November 15, 2006
With three of the most potent and innovative acts grouped together on one ticket, an evening performance earlier this month at the Abbey Pub in Chicago could have been given the title "Night of 1,000 Beats" without anyone crying foul. On a chilly Saturday night, independent hip-hop fans were treated to a full bill of distinctly different but highly skilled, crowd-wowing artists when Edan & Dagha, Cut Chemist, and Lyrics Born rolled into Chicago.

Edan started making noise around 10 pm with his old school-meets-new school sound and sharp-tongued, witty rhymes. Everything is deceiving about this guy: he is a younger, white, stoner-looking dude who wears a tie and has messy hair, yet he sounds as if he were raised in the ghetto, possesses great knowledge of hip-hop's past, and comes direct with an energetic and seamless flow. All the acclaim that has been lumped upon Edan for his recorded work (Primitive Plus and, more recently, Beauty and the Beat) is brought sharply into focus live; throughout his set he DJs, fucks with a theremin, plays kazoo and acoustic guitar simultaneously, rhymes a million miles an hour, and references nearly every influential pop/rock group of the last 30 years in the course of three minutes (during "Rock 'n' Roll" Dagha held up a stack of record covers and leafed through them while Edan subtly referenced the respective artists in rhyme). The consummate support player, Dagha threw flowers to the audience and played a great wing-MC.


Edan performs amongst the crowd during Cut Chemist's set.

If Edan was the rising potential of hip-hop, Cut Chemist could be seen as potential realized. Even though Lyrics Born officially closed out the night in the headlining spot, Cut Chemist played the biggest set, complete with coordinated video footage, crowd interaction, technical prowess, and over an hour and a half of turntable tricks and danceable breakbeats. The only irk was that both Chemist and his video coordinator Tom were sporting Cut Chemist t-shirts; kinda dorky.

Cheesy wardrobes aside, the DJ put on a paradiddle clinic by messing with every sound and rhythm that came out of his library (which he manipulated via two decks and a pair of CD scratchers), eventually mutating eeks and snare beats into Funky Drummer-esque patterns. Somewhat likened to Jeremy Piven, Cut Chemist has a scruffy look and is similarly low-keyed while scissoring his legs and effortlessly spasm-ing his arms between vinyl and mixer switches. The lengthy set was full of high points, like when he played crowd-pleasing cuts ("What's the Altitude" and "My First Big Break") from his new album The Audience's Listening, did a track with Edan, fronted obscure shit like Dabrye's "Prospects (Marshall Law)," and later scratched to a video of crowd members that he filmed at the end of the show. When it was all over with, Cut Chemist was easily the night's brightest star.


Cut Chemist carves a nasty hook.

Lyrics Born took the stage a bit later than planned but didn't let the setback alter his approach. Backed by a tight, flashy live hip-hop band - including synthesizer, guitar, bass, drums, and a backup vocalist -Born struck the crowd with a full-on, boisterous attitude that, in retrospect, both opening acts lacked. Whereas both Edan/Dagha and Cut Chemist flashed complementary Swiss Army knife sets of technical skill, Born relied on his hyping phrases ("get ya hands up!"), consistent rhyming, and a general electrified sound to push the crowd. The MC would bounce around, dance alongside his backing female vocalist, and throw his arms in the air. The overall feel was dancehall-ish, similar to the general bouncing aesthetic in movement and rapping that someone like Beanie Man might come with.


Lyrics Born and backing band get hype.

Any of the night's three sets could have been substituted for any of the others in the order and have still maintained a constant buzz of excitement from the room-filling, involved audience. Unlike some shows with distractive crowds - those who only show up to see one act and then proceed to either leave or, worse yet, talk incessantly through the rest of the show - those assembled at the Abbey on the night in question were social but not overly so. Not that the lineup gave anyone much of an option - throughout the evening even those in the mezzanine area danced about or simply sat transfixed at their tables. And they had much reason to be so overtaken.

SEE ALSO: www.humblemagnificent.com
SEE ALSO: www.cutchemist.com
SEE ALSO: www.lyricsborn.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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